As founder and former President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan said, “Foreign aid and assistance is one of the basic pillars of our foreign policy. For we believe that there is no true benefit for us from the wealth that we have unless it does not also reach those in need, wherever they may be, and regardless of their nationality or beliefs.”
Since its founding, the UAE has provided significant aid to developing countries and has been a major contributor of emergency relief to regions affected by conflict and natural disasters. The fundamental purpose of UAE aid is to reduce poverty and help those in need, and the UAE has been a crucial global donor throughout the years.
Development aid in 2016 amounted to $4.15 billion. Moreover, since the UAE's establishment in 1971, estimated UAE aid from both the government and nongovernmental organizations has been valued around $60 billion – used to fund development, humanitarian and charity assistance projects.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the UAE was the world’s largest donor of Official Development Assistance (ODA) in 2016, contributing 1.2 percent of its gross national income.
Country Specific Aid
Since 2011, Yemen has been a top recipient of UAE assistance. Between 2015 and 2018, the UAE has donated $2.78 billion in aid and reconstruction support to Yemen. Recently, the UAE announced a pledge of $500 million to the UN’s Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan for 2018. The pledge is part of a joint commitment of $930 million by the UAE and Saudi Arabia to provide funding for UN assistance programs in Yemen.
Of the total funds the UAE has donated since 2015, $1.74 billion has been allocated to food aid, $646 million to health projects, and $151.1 million to the education sector. Funds have also been dedicated to energy generation, social services, and government programs in Yemen.
Despite Houthi-imposed obstacles, the UAE is working closely with Saudi Arabia to increase the flow of humanitarian assistance into Yemen through Hodeida and other points of entry.
On January 20, 2018, the UAE joined its Coalition partners in announcing the launch of the Yemen Comprehensive Humanitarian Operations (YCHO) campaign. Under this Campaign, the Coalition will contribute $1.5 billion in new humanitarian aid funding for distribution across UN agencies and independent NGOs.
- The construction of nearly 60,000 new housing units with associated infrastructure
- Grants provided for the procurement of 600 passenger buses to boost public transport services
- Electricity generation at the Banha power station, supporting local energy needs
- The construction of wheat silos, which lower Egypt’s food costs and elevate its ability to store wheat and prevent waste
- A dormitory for 3,000 female students and a new library at Al Azhar University in Cairo
In 2016, the UAE disbursed $244.5 million to Jordan. As in previous years, UAE foreign assistance to Jordan in 2016 was provided almost exclusively as grants. With a six percent increase over 2015, around 80 percent of this funding was assigned to development, while the rest helped to advance humanitarian initiatives, largely to support Syrian refugees.
Mrejib al Fhood (MAF), the UAE-funded Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, has become a safe haven for some of the most vulnerable refugees crossing into the country. The 62 acre camp with a capacity of 25,000 occupants is located in Mrejib Al Fhood, 50 miles east of Amman, and cost nearly $7 million.
The UAE has a longstanding commitment to support rebuilding and restoration efforts in Afghanistan. As of 2017, the UAE allocated more than $326 million for development projects in the country. UAE donor organizations have disbursed grants toward wide-ranging foreign aid projects – including development assistance, charitable projects, and humanitarian and emergency relief.
Since the start of the Syria crisis in 2011, the UAE has provided $700 million in support of Syrian refugees.
The UAE has given safe haven to more than 100,000 Syrians, as well as Palestinians with Syrian documents, who have joined their families, and thousands more have arrived on visitor visas that can be renewed. This has brought up the number of Syrian residents in the UAE to more than 240,000.
In 2014, the UAE provided US $422.3 million in humanitarian funding for IDPs inside Syria, as well as for Syrian refugees in neighboring countries.
Profile of UAE Aid
The UAE is at the forefront of efforts to eradicate poverty and provide assistance to those in need, including the most vulnerable. In 2016, the UAE’s foreign assistance amounted to $6.05 billion and supported development, humanitarian and charitable programs in many developing countries. The UAE’s contribution of 1.2 percent of its gross national income to development assistance far surpassed the 0.7 percent United Nations target, making it the largest donor in 2016.
On average, the largest regional recipients of UAE aid were Asia, Africa and Europe between the years 2009 and 2016. The top four sectors to which UAE donors directed their funds in 2016 were general program assistance, urban development, food aid and medical services.
In addition to emergency and other humanitarian relief, the UAE provides development aid. In 2016, the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched the UAE Foreign Assistance Policy – the nation’s long-term development cooperation plan towards eradicating poverty and promoting global peace and prosperity. The UAE remains committed to supporting the development of its partner countries. The largest recipients of UAE government development aid are Egypt, Yemen and Jordan.
Beyond government support, the UAE’s primary aid and relief agency is the Red Crescent Authority (RCA), known as one of the world's top ten Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in terms of the volume of aid provided.
While much of the UAE's development assistance is provided on a government-to-government basis, the country is also a major contributor to multilateral organizations. The UAE supports various UN development funds, including UNICEF, UNDP and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as the UN Relief Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees.